Samhain, known as the Witches’ New Year, is one of the most anticipated and celebrated pagan holidays. It has an energy that sets it apart from the other sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, an annual cycle of seasonal festivals that consists of the year’s largest solar events (the solstices and equinoxes) and the midpoints between them. Samhain coincides with Halloween and marks the end of the harvest season, opening the gateway to winter. Pagans and witches celebrate this sabbat from October 30 through November 1. October 30 is often used as a time for holiday preparations, while October 31 is considered to be the big celebration day, followed by a day of closure and reflection. Samhain is an ideal time to focus on change and transformation in your life. Consider which aspects of your journey you wish to let go in order to make room for new experiences and habits that will serve to shape you into your very best self and help you realize your full potential. It’s a time to set goals for the new year ahead. At Samhain, it is said that the veil between the earthly realm and the spirit world wears thin, providing an opportunity for strong and meaningful spirit communication, connecting with loved ones and guides on the other side who wish to offer you comfort, love, healing, and guidance for the year ahead.
One way to connect with loved ones on the other side is to use a divination practice called scrying. This is the act of gazing into something—often a reflective surface like water, a candle flame, a black mirror, a crystal ball, or tendrils of smoke—for the purpose of divining spiritual guidance and wisdom. Some will perceive actual shapes, symbols, and colors, while others will see visions in their mind’s eye (known as clairvoyance) or perhaps hear verbal messages (clairaudience). Cauldron divination is a less common method of scrying but particularly enjoyable to explore, as it allows for the use of burning magical herbs and resins as incense—ones that are associated with Samhain as well as herbs and resins that correspond to the type of guidance you may wish to receive from your spirit ancestors. Resins like copal, benzoin, and myrrh will sweeten the scent of your smoke and are available in many new age or witchcraft shops, online and off.
Herbs associated with Samhain that are safe to burn in dried form include mugwort, sage, and rosemary. Keep in mind that not all herbs are safe to burn. Some produce toxic smoke, so be sure to do thorough research before burning any herb. I burn garden sage as opposed to white sage. White sage is in danger of being overharvested and should be reserved for very specific sacred Native American spiritual rituals.
You’ll need a heat-proof, cast iron cauldron or other heat-safe vessel if you don’t have a cauldron, a charcoal tablet made especially for incense burners (not grilling charcoal), and ground-up dried herbs and resins that correspond to the types of specific questions you plan to ask (see page 49). Grind up your herbs and resins separately as the resin can be sticky. Combine them at a one-to-one ratio, storing the incense blend in
an airtight container. You’ll need to burn only a pinch at a time. Light your special charcoal disk in your cauldron, and once it gets going, sprinkle your incense on top of the disk. It will produce a fair amount of smoke, so be sure to work in a well-ventilated area. You can begin very simply by asking a yes/no question as you gently blow on the smoke. Traditionally, if the smoke swirls in a clockwise direction, your answer is said to be No. If it moves in a counterclockwise fashion, it’s a Yes. As you progress with this divination method, gaze into the smoke and be open to receiving more specific messages from your spirit ancestors and guides. You may see visions or hear messages in the form of single words or short phrases.
Herb and Resin Magical Correspondences: Burn dried herbs and resins that have magical properties corresponding to the types of questions you plan to ask. Here’s a list of herbs and resins you can safely burn for common types of questions or themes. Love: copal resin, rose, ginger, cinnamon, catnip, lavender
Prosperity/Abundance: benzoin resin, mint, dill, bay leaves, cedar
Health/Healing/Well-Being: myrrh resin, dried apple rind, juniper berries, chamomile,
rosemary, pine, thyme, amaranth
Steps for a Successful Cauldron Scrying Session:
Prior to scrying, I recommend that you cleanse the energy in your space (I often burn garden sage), then relax and ground yourself with your favorite technique. You can play spiritual music (singing bowl music is a favorite of mine), light a candle, dance, meditate, or envision yourself rooted like a strong, ancient tree. Take a bite of an apple (perhaps a Halloween candy apple), as food is grounding and apples have historically been used as offerings to honor the dead. Cast a circle around your scrying space, both for the sake of focus and for protection. Invite only spirits who come in love and light. You may want to decorate your sacred space with gourds and pumpkins prior to your divination session, as they are traditionally associated with offering protection against negative energies.
• In a well-ventilated area, light your charcoal disk made specifically for burning incense on, and place a pinch of your homemade incense on it (you will need to repeat this process throughout the session to keep the smoke going). Close your eyes for a moment and take a few deep breaths, focusing on your breath. Open your eyes. Take time to watch the smoke, gaze into it, and allow yourself to further relax, continuing to breathe deeply, mentally becoming one with the smoke.
• As you slip into a meditative state, you will begin to divine information through your senses. It may take a variety of forms, whether visual, audial, olfactory, or somatic. Feel free to start with yes/no questions. The information you receive may make sense immediately or may become validated shortly thereafter. Keep a notebook nearby to jot down your perceptions. You’ll find that these messages are sometimes meant for you and sometimes meant for others close to you.
• You’ll know when it’s time to end the session. After closing the session, reground yourself, reflect on your notes, and be open to receiving validation for the messages you received. Those validations usually materialize within a day or so, and they can be amazing and powerful.